Flight Operations - Integrated Pilot Training

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The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) will be amended in the coming months to include a new approach to pilot training in Canada. The new approach is the integrated course.

The integrated course is a continuous course based on principles of the systems approach to training. The Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) first endorsed this concept in October 1997, following the regulatory model for integrated courses that had already been established in Europe, in the Joint Aviation Requirements (JAR).

Military pilot training in Canada has been based on a systems approach for decades. In civil aviation, a systems approach has been used by some airlines in the recurrent training of airline pilots through the Advanced Qualification Program (AQP), but this is not widespread. However, for traditional pilot training, we have relied on traditional means, prescribing the training requirements and relying heavily on written examinations and flight tests to control quality, rather than using performance-based requirements and building quality principles into the whole training process.

The traditional approach has served us quite well. Compared to a systems approach, it’s much simpler. Many flight schools are producing good results with it, especially those that have gone far beyond the minimum requirements in building their course structures and good documentation for the training, and ensuring close supervision. We don’t want to lose sight of the success we have had with the traditional approach.

The systems approach tells us that training should be competency-based, sequenced so that lessons are integrated, tracked so that changes and updates to training documentation can be performed efficiently, and evaluated so that evaluation and corrective actions allow continuous improvement. The systems approach proposes that training should be based on a systematic analysis of the job; an analysis of what people do and how they do it. And if you can, you want to get beyond the surface and learn how the job of flying is managed at the cognitive level; the strategizing, planning, prioritizing, discriminating, and problem solving. This analysis is then used to identify the training needs. The training needs are used to develop the learning objectives. The objectives are used to develop the tests and to build the course. The course, once delivered, is evaluated and the results are fed back into the design, creating a process of continuous improvement. The loop is closed, creating a powerful system.

Flight schools conducting integrated courses are required to have documentation that other schools don’t require. The documentation comes in the form of two essential control manuals that are developed by the company. One is the operations manual. This manual is used to control the operation of the company’s aircraft. It gives direction to everyone who operates the aircraft on such things as flight following procedures, requirements for individuals performing flight-following, flight authorization and preparation procedures, fuel and oil requirements, accident/incident reporting procedures, and use of checklists.

The second manual is the training manual. Whereas the concept of an operations manual is well-understood in this country, the training manual is new. This manual is used to control the conduct of training; specifically to control the conduct of the integrated course, by setting out the detailed syllabus of flight and ground training, including "synthetic" flight training. The manual also requires a training plan. The training plan sets out such details as pre-entry requirements, credits for previous experience, course constraints in terms of maximum student training times, duty period restrictions for students, maximum flying hours in any day/night period, minimum rest periods, rules for attendance records, the form of training records to be kept, policies for the conduct of progress checks and written examinations, procedure for changing instructors, procedures for identifying and managing unsatisfactory student progress, and the internal feedback system for reporting training deficiencies.

The fact that Canada has already begun to adopt the integrated course model has captured attention in Europe and the United States. In matters of pilot training, we are beginning to speak the same language of a systems approach. As the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) moves ahead with changes to Annex1 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation - Personnel Licensing, advancing the idea of control manuals for flight training and even embedding the systems approach in the proposed multi-crew pilot licence, Canada will be familiar with the underlying concepts. We will have experience in making them work. If we don’t learn the language of a systems approach to training, we will risk being left behind as the approach gains ground around the world, and we will lose the opportunity to gain the benefits of a systems approach - stronger competencies for our flight crew.

Integrated Pilot Training

The systems approach is not rocket science; it’s just systematic. It does involve a lot of hard work on the part of the training organization to do the analysis and build the documentation. It requires effort to monitor the training to ensure that the syllabus and policies and procedures are being followed. It requires effort to update the documentation when it is seen that some aspects of the flight operations and training are not working as hoped. In looking at all the requirements for an integrated course (the manuals, the control systems, and the quality system), it’s important to always keep in mind what’s at the centre. It’s the student. The whole system is intended to serve the learning needs of the student who wants to enter the world of aviation. In serving these needs, we will serve the larger purpose of strengthening our defences against human errors and their contribution to accidents.

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